Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. The federal government is bringing in a new coal policy saying new or expanded thermal coal mines create unacceptable environmental impacts.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

‘Unacceptable environmental effects:’ New federal policy restricts thermal coal

Policy puts another roadblock in front of Coalspur Mines and its Alberta Vista mine expansion

The federal government is making it more difficult to develop thermal coal in Canada with a new policy that says all such mines create “unacceptable environmental effects.”

The move erects another roadblock for Coalspur Mines and its Vista mine expansion in Alberta, the only such mine in Canada currently before regulators.

Federal Environment Minister Jonathon Wilkinson said the move was made because of the need to stop burning coal for power — the single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the world.

“Phasing out thermal coal is the most critical climate change issue right now,” he said.

The policy, released Friday, does not rule out such development. But approvals will be tough to get.

“The government of Canada considers that any new thermal coal mining projects, or expansions of existing thermal coal mines in Canada, are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects,” it says. “This position will inform federal decision making on thermal coal projects.”

It says the federal cabinet must consider sustainability and climate change in weighing any new projects, regardless of size.

“What we’re saying is this is something that does not fit from a public policy perspective,” Wilkinson said. “A proponent can continue on through the process, but that’s a pretty high bar to surmount.”

Coalspur’s Vista mine expansion project near Hinton, Alta., which would be the largest thermal coal mine in North America, has filed an application to the provincial regulator. Wilkinson has ruled the project should face a federal environmental assessment, although Coalspur is challenging that decision in court.

The company has been informed the new policy will apply to it, Wilkinson said. He added the policy gives more certainty to other companies considering similar projects.

Wilkinson said he believes the new policy lies within federal power despite its impact on natural resources, a provincial jurisdiction.

“We’re comfortable this is something within our purview to do,” he said. “The vast, vast, vast majority of Canadians would think that this is something that’s a no-brainer.”

Canada is a founding member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a group of countries trying to reduce the use of thermal coal around the globe. Wilkinson said permitting new mines would harm Canada’s efforts in that forum.

“We’ve been the leader in the international community telling other countries that they should be phasing out thermal coal — and then we approve new thermal coal mines? People would say that doesn’t make any sense.”

The new policy does not affect metallurgical coal, the type of coal found in most of the controversial new coal exploration projects in the Alberta foothills.

The federal government has been asked to step in on many of those projects. Wilkinson has until July 1 to decide if he will request a federal assessment for Montem Resource’s Tent Mountain mine.

Wilkinson called emissions from steelmaking a different issue.

“(Thermal coal) is a short-term issue,” he said.

“Our commitment with other countries is to help them phase out (coal) nine years from now. That’s not much time.”

Canada has promised to phase out the burning of coal for power by 2030.

—Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Community involvement key to safe, reclaimable coal mines: industry scientists

energy sector

Just Posted

JAK's Liquor Store in Penticton will be donating 10 per cent of its sales on Saturday, June 19, to the Penticton Salvation Army Food Bank. (Photo from JAKS.com)
Stock up your liquor cabinet and support the Penticton food bank

Jak’s beer and wine store is donating a portion of sales to local food banks Saturday

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

The illegal open fire above Naramata continues to smoke on Friday, June 18. The fire was left to burn itself out by BC Wildfire. (Monique Tamminga - Western News)
Illegal open burn in Naramata will be left to smoke

BC Wildfire could not confirm whether the property owner had been fined

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Keremeos’ heritage Grist Mill and Gardens. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Keremeos Grist Mill looking forward to restrictions easing with exclusive concert planned

Juno Award-winning folk artist Valdy is set to take the stage

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A motorycle crash has been reported on Westside Road. (Google Maps)
UPDATE: Westside Road reopened following motorcycle crash near Vernon

AIM Roads advises drivers to expect delays due to congestion

(File photo)
Penticton not holding Canada Day activities out of respect for Indigenous people

Cities across B.C. are cancelling the holiday after an increased spotlight on Canada’s dark history

Dereck Donald Sears. (Contributed/Crimestoppers)
Murder charge laid in relation to suspicious Kelowna death

Dereck Donald Sears is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Darren Middleton

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Most Read